Croydon 0-5 Hollands & Blair - We assumed the game was called off, claims Croydon coach Barry Tyson-Gooden

Wednesday 09th March 2016
Croydon 0 – 5 Hollands & Blair
Location Croydon Sports Arena, Albert Road, South Norwood, London SE25 4QL
Kickoff 09/03/2016 20:30

Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Semi-Final First Leg
Wednesday 9th March 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Croydon Sports Arena

CROYDON coach Barry Tyson-Gooden was forced to issue an apology after kick-off was delayed for 40 minutes after his players failed to turn up to their home game against Hollands & Blair.

The secretary of the home club warned of a possible postponement for a waterlogged pitch during the morning, but the pitch passed a lunchtime pitch inspection and the club’s Twitter feed and this website and Twitter feed confirmed the fixture was going ahead throughout the afternoon, Croydon saying “I’ve not been told of any postponement.”

But somebody involved with Croydon wrongly told their players that the match was postponed.

Match referee Louise Saunders confirmed that the pitch was playable upon her arrival at Croydon Sports Arena and decided to delay the kick-off to 20:00, then 20:15 so Croydon’s players could get to the ground, before the game actually got underway at 20:25 and finished at 22:13.

With Croydon’s manager/chairman Dickson Gill recovering following a “very serious op” five weeks ago and is “not about at football as I’ve got on-going problems,” it was left to a reluctant Tyson-Gooden to explain the pre-match farce.

“Don’t want to go into too many details but obviously we assumed that the game was called off,” said Tyson-Gooden.

“There was a lot of standing water on the pitch but then the referee turned up. We’ve already told the players’ that the game was off. Credit to them they’ve changed their plans and they all came down and we was able to get the game on.

“Obviously not the ideal preparation but credit to them for actually coming down and being able to put in a semi-decent performance.”

When it was put to him that the game was never called off at any time during the day, Tyson-Gooden replied: “We’ve had a few issues off the pitch in terms of people leaving so that’s thrown a lot of things in the air. I think a lot of things have been lost in communication but we’ll rebuild and we’ll go again next week.

“It’s not great for the club, on behalf of Croydon I can apologise to anyone who was affected by the game. That’s something we’ll get right going forward.

“It was a mad rush but that doesn’t take anything away from the way that we play football, once you get on the pitch it’s eleven-versus-eleven. 

“Obviously they were better than us on the day but we know we’re capable of a better performance than that. In spells we was alright but they took their chances well and they probably deserved three or four. I don’t think it was a 5-0 game but 3-0 would’ve been a fair result.”

Hollands & Blair’s manager Paul Piggott admitted the whole situation was “farcical”.

He said: “I’ve got to be honest with you, I’ve probably got no comment because it’s farcical, simple as that!

“I don’t know what’s gone on, I don’t really want to know what’s gone on to be honest with you because we’ll just wind ourselves up even more.

“I’m glad we’ve got the game played because when we walked through the door we thought the game wasn’t going to be played, so I’m glad we got here, we’ve got it played and we’ll let the powers to be sort all the nuts and bolts of it.

“It could’ve been a distraction. We have a set plan that we do before the game and when that gets put back 10-15 minutes it mucks people’s minds up, people can switch off, but I thought the boys showed tonight we rose above that situation although at times we wasn’t at our best.

“I think we did a professional job to come here and score five goals and we didn’t concede.”

Hollands & Blair sealed their place in the Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Final after cruising to a comfortable 5-0 first leg win and hope Croydon’s players turn up for the second leg at Star Meadow, Darland Avenue in Gillingham next Wednesday, 16 March (7:45pm).

It leaves third-from-bottom Croydon needing a miracle to progress through to the Final.

“Disappointed with the result, obviously 5-0 at home in the first leg leaves us with a mountain to climb,” admitted Tyson-Gooden.

“Realistically our chances of making the final are pretty slim but we’ll go there next week and we’ll give it our best shot and hopefully we’ll have a few players back.”

Reflecting on the game itself, Piggott said: “We’re happy that mathematically we should’ve put the tie to bed tonight with a 5-0 win. We’re not going to take it for granted but we’ve come here – they’ve been a little bit of a bogey side for us this lot, they took four points off us in the league - so it’s great to come here and put one foot into the final really.”

Rob Denness opened the floodgates with his nineteenth goal of the season, before man-of-the-match Brett Ince added a second before the break.

Hollands & Blair added three goals during the second half as winger Ince netted his second of the night – to take his tally up to nine goals for the season – before star striker James McDonald tapped home two goals to notch 31 goals for the campaign.

Hollands & Blair went into the game in second-place in the table on 62 points from 28 games, a point behind Greenwich Borough, whose manager was in the crowd for 75 minutes.

Once the game finally got underway, Hollands & Blair were to be denied by a fine save from Croydon keeper Francis Ameyaw after only 108 seconds into the game.

Denness was played in behind right-back Zach Beeden and Aaron Leacock and only had the highly-rated stopper to beat but Ameyaw came off his line and smothered the ball.

Piggott was full of praise for the Croydon keeper.

He said: “He’s been a bit of an enigma to us that lad. He’s played really well every time we play them, single handily he’s taken the points off us this season so I take my hat off to him. He’s made some good saves tonight.

“I’m pleased with the front two, they get into some great positions tonight. I think they missed more than they scored, which will displease us and them but they got into positions and got us in front.”

Tyson-Gooden added: “We highlighted Denness before the game. We know what he’s about. He’s a good player, one of the best players in the league.

“When you’re up against him, he’s going to get chances and you’ve got to hope your keeper’s going to have a good day and your back four are going to be solid but we weren’t solid at times and then we got punished for it.”

Croydon then created a couple of chances from outside the penalty area.

Striker Austin Gacheru played the ball out to Ben Mankelow out on the left and he played the ball back to Gacheru, but he swept his left-footed shot into Dan Ellis’ hands for a comfortable save.

Mankelow then hit a right-footed angled drive from 30-yards, which rolled harmlessly past the near post.

Piggott was delighted that his defence kept Croydon at bay.

“We spoke about that at half-time, funnily enough. The one or two times where they did have possession in there because they did outnumber us in midfield. I think I counted three shots and they were all from outside the box so we’re pleased and we’ll take that.”

Hollands & Blair went route one through Ellis’ big kick which found Jordan Gallagher down the left and he played the ball inside to McDonald, who curled his right-footed shot around the far post.

The ball had deflected off Croydon central defender Cedric Abraham, who held up the start of both halves as he was the last player to enter the pitch.

Hollands & Blair deserved their lead, timed at 17:14 on the clock.

Scottish left-back Bryan Greenfield played a precise diagonal pass from the middle of the park to put Denness through on goal and he calmly slotted his right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from 12-yards.

Piggott said: “He’s quite clinical from that sort of position Rob. He made some great runs and Jock has got a great left-foot on him. If people are making runs, nine times out of ten he finds them.”

Tyson-Gooden said: “Yes, yes, that is how it went, you was watching! Not much I can say about their goals. I can say we didn’t defend them as we should be, but like I said in patches we matched them. We kept the ball without having that killer instinct up front. I’d rather concentrate on what we’re doing really.”

Croydon went close to levelling following Aaron Leacock’s floated corner in from the left, which saw Abraham rise at the far post to glance his header wide from six-yards.

Gacheru drilled a right-footed shot from 25-yards, which rolled into the hands of untroubled Ellis.

Ameyaw was keeping Croydon in the game as he advanced to his right to smother the ball as Gallagher tried to cut into the bottom corner of the penalty after McDonald’s pass.

Hollands & Blair continued their dominance of the first half and were to be denied by Ameyaw’s double save on the half-hour mark.

Sam Gutridge clipped a ball over the top of the Croydon defence to put McDonald through on goal.  His first shot was blocked by Ameyaw, who clawed the ball away high to his right to prevent Gallagher chipping the ball over his head and then Ince’s drive was blocked on the line by Zach Beeden.

Piggott added: “It was a bit of a goalmouth scramble. At times we tried to play too much compact football but tonight was a night that we felt we had to stretch them a little bit.

“The ball from Sam was a ball that we were trying to do and we weren’t doing early enough, just to get them stretched, so we can create a bit more space for us in midfield.”

Greenfield cut the corner back to Ince, who swept over his first time hooked shot over the bar from 22-yards.

Croydon missed a great chance to level just 27 seconds before conceding the second.

Mankelow cut the ball back to left-back Donovan Leacock, who fed the ball to Al-Hassan Oshilaja, who set up Andy Mott, but the central midfielder’s first time shot bounced into Ellis’ hands for a comfortable save.

Hollands & Blair killed the game off, with their second goal timed at 36:45.

Denness was released down the left channel and he swept the ball inside, which was dummied by McDonald in the middle and rolled to an unmarked Ince at the far post.  He took a touch before driving his right-footed shot into the bottom centre of the goal from 12-yards, pleasing Piggott.

GOAL: Brett Ince (red) scores Hollands & Blair's second goal in their 5-0 win over Croydon.
Photo: Alan Coomes

“Brett’s been playing up top for us every time he’s played for us this season and our last game at Crowborough we had to play him on the right because we were a little bit short on numbers in that position and we played him there and he was outstanding and that’s why he played there again tonight.

“He just gives us something from there, not only does he gives us attacking threat he scores goals from that position as well. He got himself in a great position.”

Tyson-Gooden added: “Our back four haven’t played together too many times. He did have a lot of space to tuck it in but we’ll work on that on the training field.”

Ameyaw pulled off another great save on the stroke of half-time as Hollands & Blair created a couple of injury time chances.

Central midfielder Sam Prescott played a low pass into McDonald, whose shot on the turn from 12-yards was tipped around the post by Ameyaw, diving low to his right.

Tyson-Gooden said: “I can’t actually remember that one! Yes, they had a few good chances. Francis, as he gets paid to do, keeps balls out of the net.  He’s one of the best keepers in this league and I think they’ll be able to tell you that as well.”

Piggott praised the keeper once more and you got an impression that he may sing Ameyaw in the future if given the chance.

He said: “It was a great save. The lad’s a good goalkeeper. No disrespect to the level that he’s playing at, he’s better than that and that save proved it. He’s done it two or three times against us now.”

The keeper then had his fingers stung at his near post from Ince’s piledriver from the left-hand side after Louis Valencia’s corner was cut back to him.

Both were asked their thoughts at half-time.

Piggott said: “Just keep going! We got a bit sloppy at times in the first half. Let’s not take it away from them it is there semi-final as well, so they had a lot to play for as well, as we did.

“We had to weather that storm especially the first tie being away - and they did, they gave us a game and a battle.

“What we wanted to do second half was just up our tempo a bit more and our work-rate.  They’ve got two centre halves who like to play a bit of football and we just felt we needed to put a bit more pressure on them up the park and that was our plan second half.”

Tyson-Gooden added: “Just try to stay in the tie really. Make sure that we go there and try and not concede any more goals. Keep our heads and just keep going really, keep playing the way we know we can.”

The start of the second half was an uninspiring affair with neither side creating anything.

That was until the thirteenth minute when Greenfield played the ball up to Gallagher, who was given acres of time and space to float over a deep cross towards an Ince.  He took a touch before drilling a right-footed shot that screamed over the keeper’s left-shoulder and crashed against the crossbar.

Piggott hailed the effort from the man-of-the-match.

He said: “He took a great first touch when the ball came across him, he just chested it away from the defender. It was a great little body swerve and the way he got the ball away from his marker was great. He just probably wanted a little bit more composure with his shot. He probably snatched at it a little bit, probably hit it too hard. He should’ve scored. He got in a great position after his great first touch.”

By this point Tyson-Gooden’s interest in the post-match interview deteriorated.

When asked about Inca smashing the crossbar, he replied: “Did they? I can’t remember that to be honest.”

Croydon created an opening in the 63rd minute following a brief spell of pressure.

Mott played the ball in low from the left-hand side of the penalty area and Beeden should have done better than to completely missed his kick. It summed up Croydon’s night!

Croydon capitulated as soon as Hollands & Blair scored their third goal with 25:45 on the clock.

McDonald fed Ince who cut inside and drilled his left-footed shot from 12-yards across the keeper, the ball nestling into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

Piggott said: “We’ve found him a position over the last couple of games, I’m glad he’s scoring from that position because he’s a goalscorer, a natural goalscorer and he’s got great feet, great ability and he’s a lad that thrives on goals. He plays better the more he scores.”

Tyson-Gooden added: “To be fair he was a threat all night. He played really well, he’s a good player.”

Mankelow – who was caught offside on five occasions – sliced his shot from inside the box out to substitute Tony Halsey, who put the ball back in for captain Mott to drag his shot across goal and past the far post.

Hollands & Blair’s fourth goal arrived with 32:04 on the clock, by that time the Croydon fans in the tiny crowd of 38 had seen enough.

Ince burst down the left and centred towards the near post for McDonald to tap the ball onto the bottom left-hand corner from six-yards.

Tyson-Gooden scooped the most difficult post-match interview of the season award when he replied: “Yes, I think you’re right! I don’t really want to go through all the goals but yes, I’m not giving you a commentary on all the goals mate, you saw the game!”

“I think the fourth and fifth goal were both from wide areas, which was great to see because we do like to attack from width,” added Piggott.

“We just made a switch then. Brett was on the right and Justin (Ascheri) was on the left and we switched them around and Brett came in and just put it on a plate for Macca.”

Denness produced a mazy run when he beat three Croydon defenders but once he shot inside the penalty area Ameyaw came to the home club’s rescue again with a smart save with his legs.

Piggott said: “Rob’s a handful, he’s such a handful when he’s got his back to goal and I think he’s more of a threat when his got his back to goal then when he is facing goal.

“He’s so big and strong and we question his decision making at times a little bit. When he’s got that ability he’s got and the goals that he scores sometimes, you just have to let him get on with it.”

Elliott Miles came off the Croydon bench and showed some determination and bounced a shot into Ellis’ hands from 25-yards.

Blair substitute Justin Ascheri whipped in a deep cross towards the far post from the right but Ince failed to keep his diving header on target.

Hollands & Blair scored their fifth goal with the clock showing 42:52 when two of their substitutes combined to set up McDonald.

George Blake was inside his penalty area when he pinged a sublime 60-yard diagonal pass to send Ascheri on his bike down the right wing.  He played the ball across the face of goal and McDonald tapped the ball in from six-yards.

“If you give George Blake that much time and space in the centre of midfield he will pick a pass out against anyone’s opposition,” said Piggott.

“He had a bit of space and he picked out a great weighted pass for Justin and he done what he does best, uses his bit of pace to get into good areas and put it on a plate for Macca. A great move and that’s what George has got in his locker, a great distributor of the ball.”

Piggott believes McDonald is “slacking,” and feels he should have more goals this season.

“He’s slacking! I honestly believe he should have more than 31 goals.  I think the last four or five games, I think he’ll tell you he should have more and I think that as well.”

It was pointless to ask Tyson-Gooden what he thought of Blair’s fifth goal but he waved the white flag going into next week’s second leg in Gillingham.

“Thoughts are we’ll have a better week’s preparation. We’ll have a couple of training sessions,” said the hapless Croydon coach.

“It will be a different encounter than tonight. Mate, miracles happen, but I don’t think anyone’s going to back us to go there and score five. As long as we come out of it with a bit of credit and we put in a performance that we can be proud of then I’ll be happy enough with that.

“Win the game, lose the game, I don’t care! As long as we can put in a performance that we can be proud off.

“I can accept being beaten by a better team but tonight I just felt we weren’t at the races completely and we got punished for it.”

Hollands & Blair will be looking forward to facing either Cray Valley or Erith & Belvedere in the Final – Cray Valley lead 2-1 from the First Leg and hope to play their second leg at home next Wednesday.

“Well yes, we’d like to think so, but we don’t take anything for granted,” warned Piggott.

“Anyone in football will tell you, if you take anything for granted you’ll come unstuck, even if you concede a few goals you will come unstuck.

“We won’t do that, but we’re well happy with the situation we’re in.”

Croydon: Francis Ameyaw, Zach Beeden, Donovan Leacock, Aaron Leacock, Cedric Abraham, Jamie Lyndon, Tristan Toney (Tony Halsey 67), Andy Mott, Austin Gacheru (Elliott Miles 82), Al-Hassan Oshilaja, Ben Mankelow.
Subs: Andoh Brako, Ashley Henry-Brown, Dan Carpinini

Booked: Ben Mankelow 39, Al-Hassan Oshilaja 81

Hollands & Blair: Dan Ellis, Sam Welch, Bryan Greenfield, Sam Prescott (Tom Michelson 70), Lewis Taylor, Sam Gutridge, Brett Ince, Louis Valencia (George Blake 72), James McDonald, Rob Denness, Jordan Gallagher (Justin Ascheri 60).
Subs: Stuart West, Steve Dampier

Goals: Rob Denness 18, Brett Ince 37, 71, James McDonald 78, 88
Attendance: 38
Referee: Ms Louise Saunders (Chatham)
Assistants: Mr Chris Dodd (Eltham, London SE9) & Mr Michael Begley (Battersea, London SW8)